Welcome to the Ballroom
Episode 16

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 16 of
Welcome to the Ballroom ?

Oh, Welcome to the Ballroom, if it's not one thing, it's another with you. This episode is thankfully more free from the broadly sexist attitudes of the previous two (the one reference to “taking the reins” is fitting at the time, given Chinatsu's generally bad attitude about partnership), but that doesn't mean it's all smooth sailing. The fly in the ointment this time is Chinatsu's continuing personality issues, which have conspired to make her a much less endearing character than she should be. In large part, this is due to the adaptation rushing through its source material – with this episode, we're caught back up with the manga's English-language release, which puts us at volume seven. While it does put us on track to have the anime match up with the Japanese editions of the manga, it isn't doing the characters themselves any favors, with Chinatsu ranking at the top of that particular list.

If we think about it, Chi-chan has more than enough reasons to be leery of both competition and Tatara's lead. For one thing, she's had many more years of leading than he has, and she's very good at it. To make matters worse, her former partner Akira was emotionally abusive and continues to be so. There's really no way to totally avoid her in competition, but for Chinatsu's own sanity, she should at least change her number or ignore Akira's phone calls, because the only thing that makes her behave worse than usual is when Akira pokes that big red button labeled “Chinatsu's Insecurities.” It's toxic to her relationship with Tatara and to herself – she's never going to be able to dance her best if she can't get Akira's voice out of her ears.

Sadly, understanding this doesn't do much to make her a better character this week, possibly because the story is being told through Tatara's eyes without the benefit of thought bubbles for other characters. To Tatara, Chi-chan is someone he desperately wants to please in order to be compete alongside his friends and mentors (and the girl he likes), but she's making it impossible for him. Tatara assumes all the blame for Chi-chan's behavior, putting even more pressure on himself. When Marisa comments that the two are likely close to their breaking points, I don't think that she's truly aware of what that will mean for Tatara. Sure, you can't be too gentle to participate in a competitive sport, but it feels like Marisa might want to break him emotionally to make him somehow “better.”

The good news is that Mako is present again. After their abortive attempt to participate in the Shizuoka Grand Prix (and Tatara's freak-out seems like further proof that Sengoku did him zero favors as a teacher), Tatara and Chinatsu are invited to a summer training camp at the Hyodo family summer home in Karuizawa; when they get there, they find that the rest of the gang are all there too. Having Mako, who has a high opinion of Tatara's gentle nature and an understanding of him as a lead, seems like a really good thing right now, because Chinatsu needs to hear from someone who respects him. Hopefully the two can have a chat and things can be saved before they self-destruct.

To make a long story short, my previous beef with this show was the lack of dancing animation and the use of inappropriate music. Both of those issues are, if not fully resolved, at least less of a problem – there's some gorgeous dancing this week specifically. Now, however, we're faced with characters who are either outright unlikable, have horrible sexist attitudes that don't fit the idea of “partnership,” or are just mean for meanness' sake. I'm beginning to feel like we can't win for losing with this flawed adaptation, as every week I hope that maybe next time will give me something to love about this show instead.

Rating: C+

Welcome to the Ballroom is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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